Tokyo Olympics Recap: Pressure is there even if crowds are not

By Sports Desk July 24, 2021

Nina Christen of Switzerland finished 16th in the 10-metre air rifle at the Rio Olympics, but she became a footnote to history five years later as the first athlete to secure a medal at Tokyo 2020.

The 27-year-old locked up the bronze medal several minutes before China's Yang Qian beat Anastasiia Galashina of the Russian Olympic Committee to take gold in the first medal event of the Games.

As soon as she was eliminated from contention for the final two, Christen flashed a smile and waved, knowing she had at least won a spot on the podium this time – no small feat on this stage.

After the first medal ceremony of the Tokyo Games, she spoke about the pressure as the competition entered the final rounds.

"You just try to not reach your head out for the medal before you have the medal," Christen said. "That is the worst thing you could do. Having in your mind, 'Oh I could win a medal, or I could be eighth which would be a failure'.

"So you just try not to think about both of them, you just try and think about what your job is like breathing, holding, aiming, balance, triggering, and then follow through.

"It helps to not think about what is behind you and obviously there are a lot of cameras and a lot of people. And it would be even more if COVID would not have hit. So yeah that is the thing you have to do, otherwise you would just crack."

 

Sixth seed Swiatek rolls in tennis opener

Two seeded players enjoyed easy victories in the women's singles draw as play began at the Ariake Tennis Park.

Sixth-seeded Iga Swiatek of Poland, the 2020 French Open champion, cruised past Germany's Mona Barthel 6-2 6-2 to open her first Olympics.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 11th seed representing the Russian Olympic Committee, had an even easier time in a 6-0 6-1 rout of Italy's Sara Errani.

Pavlyuchenkova will face Germany's Anna-Lena Friedsam, who upset Great Britain's Heather Watson 7-6 6-3 in another early match.

In doubles, there was an eye-catching result for Britain's Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury, who took out French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, scoring a 6-3 6-2 victory.

 

Men's gymnastics gets under way

Nikita Nagornyy turned in the strongest showing in the opening group as men's gymnastics got under way.

Nagornyy, who won the all-around at the 2019 World Championships and was part of Russia's silver medal-winning team at Rio 2016, posted an 87.897 to lead subdivision one, which included gymnasts from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), China, Ukraine and Spain along with individuals from other nations.

But his showing was not enough to put the Russians on top, as China earned the top score in the group with a 262.061 to the ROC's 261.945. The top eight ranked teams qualify for the team final, with two subdivisions still to compete Saturday.

"I don't think our team was really good today, but we made our best effort," Nagronyy said. "We have a lot to do."

 

Brazilians start strongly on the beach

Brazil's two returning beach volleyball medallists are off to a strong start five years later.

Alison Cerutti won gold in Rio and is teamed with new partner Alvaro Morais Filho for Tokyo. They won their opening match 2-0 against Argentina's Nicolas Capogrosso and Julian Amado Azaad.

On the women's side, Rio silver medallist Agatha Bednarczuk, also with a new partner in Eduarda Santos Lisboa, won by the same score against Ana Gallay and Fernanda Pereyra of Argentina.

While she was happy to advance, Agatha found the difference between Rio's raucous crowds and Tokyo's COVID-driven quiet jarring.

"It's so different. In Brazil we have the biggest support there. Many, many people cheering for us, and here, it's silence," she said.

"Here we need to put our emotion (aside) because we don't receive the emotion from the people. For me, this is very important because I like to play with emotions."

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